Looking for God


I’m throwing you a curve this morning. We have two choices for our first reading: the reading from Genesis in your service booklet and the reading from Jeremiah I’m going to preach on in the insert. Truthfully, I knew what I wanted to say about Jeremiah (and had no idea what I wanted to say about any of the other readings). So I switched us to the alternate reading.

A prophet’s life is not an easy life.
I could pull up any number of examples. But let’s just take Jeremiah from this morning’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures.
Jeremiah says that God has enticed him. In the Hebrew context, he’s basically saying that God has seduced him. He was first seduced, and then overpowered. The imagery here, in the Hebrew, is really suggestive of rape! In our own world, something like date rape comes to mind. (more…)

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This was my second official Auburn sermon:

Last week, I talked about God’s love for us: God’s acceptance of us as we are, and God’s ongoing concern for our well-being. I talked about it as Grace, our acceptance of a gift freely given: not something we’ve somehow earned. This week, using our gospel as the jump off point, I want to talk about our love of God.
Our gospel begins by saying: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The Message paraphrase renders this: “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.”
If, then. That’s what it tends to sound like to us, doesn’t it? If you do this, then that will happen. It sounds a lot like something earned, doesn’t it. Something like if we do what God tells us to do, then God will love us. And I’ve been telling you God’s love is a gift! (more…)

This was my first “official” sermon at Auburn:

Some years ago, a young professional woman living in New York City told her priest, in the wake of yet another breakup, with yet another man, that she was “so … very very … tired of always having to try to change who she was to try to please some … very very trying … man. Why,” she asked, “couldn’t someone simply love her for herself?”
To hear some Christians, you’d think that God is a rich, powerful old man who lives in a mansion outside of town. He invites us to be honorary members of his family. Which means, in practical terms, that once a week, we all have to put on our very best clothes and our very best manners for a formal tea at his mansion. And we’d better watch out. Because if we offend him in any way, he keeps a fully staffed torture chamber in his basement. And once once someone goes into the basement, they are never seen again.
Neither the endless stream of boyfriends (or, if we reverse roles, girlfriends) nor dear Uncle God with his torture chamber really love us – do they? Because they do not accept us for who we are.
Our God, the God Jesus calls Abba, actually loves us. (more…)

Today’s sermon, at least in draft.  I’m looking at excerpts from Psalm 37 (in verses 1-10):

 

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to preach on today.  I looked at the second half of the gospel and it made me think.  Most of Jesus’ parables seem, to me, to have Jesus saying outrageous things – like abandoning 99 sheep to find one lost sheep – as though they were normal, rational actions.  And certainly my response to who would serve someone working for you all day first is that, of course, I would.  Yet I suspect (without actually knowing) that, in this case, Jesus’ story actually reflects the norms of his (very stratified) society.  I looked at the first half of today’s gospel and thought:  wasn’t it C. S. Lewis who quoted this passage?  Didn’t he say that, of course, non of us take this literally?  And then he wondered (in it’s aftermath) if World War II might have been averted if only we Christians had been more faithful in our prayers.

Prayer.

Prayers.

I’ve always meant to preach on the Psalter.  We know, on one level, that it’s poetry (or, since it was likely meant to be sung in some fashion, song).  And, as poetry, it’s my impression at least, most people don’t seem to take the psalter very seriously.  But the Psalter is known, in tradition, as the prayer book of the Bible.  And in monastic tradition, it is the backbone of the daily offices.  The psalms are recited together in community, slowly, again and again, day after day.  Monastics talk about being slowly ground down and formed by this recitation of the psalms. (more…)

One of our writing prompts today at our clergy writing group was from this “Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver:

And did you get what
you wanted from tis life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Which led me to this:

What do I want from life?  I think I may, at this point, have a clue. (more…)

When I woke up yesterday, I was thinking about your FaceBook posting asking prayers for folks in the Oklahoma City area.  Then I found myself thinking about the recent death of my father-in-law.  Basically, I was thinking about the question “why is there suffering or evil in the world?”

I mean, this wouldn’t be a question at all.  Except we believe that God made the world we live in.  We believe that God is good.  We believe that God loves and cares for us.

If all this is true, then why do bad things happen?  Why do people suffer?  Why do people die?

Mind you, at least in my mind, a good deal of this can be put down to a combination of human free will and human perversity.  But even that is part of God’s creation.  Why would our God make that part of creation?  And certainly the facts of disease and natural disaster and death are part of God’s creation too – even if we sometimes contribute to all of the above.  Why did God make the world that way?

I don’t really have answers.

But I do have thoughts.  There are some things I think are true. (more…)

All of us remain, always, on a spiritual pilgrimage.  Sister Faith Anthony’s reflections on the aftermath of her life profession in the Order of St. Helena speak eloquently to this:

On January 4, the Order of St Helena elected me to make my Life Vow, and I did so on March 19 at the Church of the Good Shepherd.

The service was lovely, and so was the reception. I was in the seventh heaven that night. Yet I had not really expected any change. Yes, now I am given the big cross, and the ring, but I had been under the temporary Vow for three years, and I had been living in the same Order for five years.

However, the next morning, when I entered the chapel, I felt, “This is different!” I felt that I had crossed an invisible threshold, and I am not the same person as the day before.

What I sensed was unspoken “acceptance” and “welcome.” God confirmed the call. I said “Yes” and the Order said “Yes.” Now I am in full service for God with these sisters for my life. The sisters received me as one of theirs in spite of all my shortcomings, trusting God’s intention and my willingness to grow. This is a pure gift. And I realize that what I vowed is a far deeper commitment than I had imagined, and now I have a huge responsibility to the Order.

The honeymoon period did not last long, (more…)

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